Vaudreuil-Dorion adjusts to new COVID-19 reality
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon said there will be no interruption of essential services for the town’s citizens during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Vaudreuil-Dorion council meeting went ahead as scheduled on Monday, March 16, with one notable difference – Councillor Paul Normand was absent from the council chamber but participated via a teleconference call.
Normand’s decision was made in line with an official provincial government decree made last Thursday, March 13, that declared a health emergency throughout the province because of the global COVID-19 (COVID-19) pandemic that is rapidly spreading throughout the country and the world.
‘Leading by example’
One of the exceptional measures in the provincial decree, which was adopted to protect the health of the population, calls on people age 70 and over to voluntarily confine themselves to their homes to avoid contracting the deadly virus. Normand is 71. “We want to lead by example,” said Mayor Guy Pilon.
Normand’s decision to stay away from the council meeting is in line with other recommendations made by the province which has also resulted in the closure of the city’s library, arena, community centre and Centre Multisports in order to prevent community transmission of the virus.
Flexibility for employees
City council also passed a resolution to provide employees with more flexibility when it comes to taking time off work provided the hours are replaced within the same year, said Pilon. “It’s really a matter of human resources which is one of our biggest challenges right now. We have people in all our key positions to answer any calls.”
The mayor noted that two municipal employees who recently returned from trips have had to go into voluntary quarantine for two weeks. The positions are temporarily being filled by employees who usually work at the library and community centre.
No interruption of essential services
Essential services will continue uninterrupted especially at the city’s water and sewage treatment facilities. “We’ve just established a plan to make sure we have people in all necessary municipal functions,” said Pilon.
Pilon said there should be only a negligible impact on other city services. “People will still be able to get their permits but instead of showing up at city hall, they might have to call in advance to make an appointment. We don’t want to have a situation where there are 10 people waiting in line,” he said.
Residents can also use online forms on the city’s website to make a permit application request beforehand, said Pilon. “It’s our citizens who are affected the most because they don’t have anywhere to go aside from staying home or going for a walk. They have to try and find some new things to do. They have to find something to do with their children during the daytime.”
Small businesses affected
The plight of small business and restaurant owners who have had to severely scale back or close down operations because of COVID-19 also concerns Pilon.
“It’s terrible for them,” he said. “We don’t know yet how to react to this situation on a municipal level.”
As president of Développement (DEV) Vaudreuil-Soulanges, an organization that helps the entrepreneurial, industrial, business, retail, municipal and tourism sectors and social enterprises in the region, Pilon said plans are already being put in place to help minimize the financial impact caused by COVID-19 with help from the Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Caisse Desjardins.
“Entrepreneurs will be able to borrow money from those funds and they won’t have to repay the capital or interest for a specific time,” he said. “I don’t know for how long. We will try to minimize the impact but it’s impossible to minimize the impact on all businesses. It will be terrible for restaurants and entertainment venues.”